As you will have read in previous chapters of Sweet Bella and Her Brood, during the first week of February 2020 ARK volunteers moved Mum Bella and her litter of 8 new-born pups from Long Beach (where there was deadly distemper disease) to the safety of derelict buildings opposite Kuştur Beach.
Jane & Brenda organised a feeding team to visit daily to check on the family, clean their living quarters and ensure that they were given the best start in life with tasty home-cooked food to augment their diet. The day after moving them, a puppy sadly died.
Alan & I met Bella’s family for the first time the next morning. Bella greeted us as we parked our cars and Jane & Brenda led the way, into an empty shell of a building – after our eyes had become accustomed to the gloom, we noticed a squirming mass of plump puppies that all eagerly crowded around the tasty meal that Jane had cooked for them. All, that is, apart from one little plumpkin, who wasn’t at all interested in feeding. As we had already lost one of his siblings, alarm bells rang.
It was a Sunday, but we had heard that vet Ziya’s new clinic was open for emergencies . . . so I scooped up the puppy and off we set. On the journey, as I gazed down at the little bundle on my lap, I remarked that he looked different to his siblings – a cuckoo, as Jane said – the others resembled their Mum with mainly black muzzles and heads, with black noses. This pup’s nose was brown and his beige panda eye patches were set in a fluffy light-brown coat. ‘’Hello Brown-nosed Barney,’’ I said – ‘’Oh, you’ve named him, have you,’’ replied Jane, with a twinkle in her eye. Vet Çağdaş gave Barney a thorough examination, as we looked on, anxiously . . . and he concluded that Barney appeared to be absolutely fine! No temperature, nothing abnormal .
When I explained that we were worried because Barney had refused food, Çağdaş reached for and opened a small can of gourmet cat food. Barney sniffed the contents, looked a bit interested, and then started licking the meat – yum!! We realised then that as the pups were still feeding from Mum Bella, Barney had probably had his fill of her milk, which had taken the edge off his appetite. Çağdaş did warn us that although Barney had a clean bill of health, that didn’t rule out a future illness that could possibly be incubating . . . and he was sadly proven correct . . . A few days later the puppies became lethargic, stopped eating and were swiftly transported to Pandora Vets, where the dreaded parvo virus was diagnosed.
The pups were extremely ill and kept in an incubator . . . it was touch & go and we were devastated when we lost two of the pups . . . but thankfully Deniz and Özden worked their magic on the survivors, including Barney, who were returned in stages to their Mum, where their medication was continued.
Thankfully Bella’s milk was still flowing and a bonus of this scare was that the puppies now had a lifetime immunity to the killer disease. The ARK team of volunteers continued their vigilance, the puppies were dressed in little jackets (donated by Margaret Jenkins) to protect them from the cold, and their room was changed to one with fewer leaks in the roof. They loved the home-cooked delicacies, watched over by a vigilant Bella and often shared with the local feral cats, all heads in the dishes together.
Bella brought her kids up well – no discrimination, share and share alike . . . As they became more active, on our weekly Sunday feeding visits I must admit to watching Brown-nosed Barney with special interest. We always had dogs when living in the UK but here on our Site there is a strong dislike of animals – complaints from our summer-visiting neighbours because we feed street cats have resulted in visits from council officials – so I was apprehensive – would a puppy bark annoyingly, attracting yet more complaints and leading to possible banishment; would we be able to leave the puppy alone in the house; would it sleep alone quietly at night; would we have time to train a puppy before the summer visitors arrived; would we be able to arrange safe kenneling during our holiday periods; would we be good parents . . . ?? And then, at 21.30 on the evening of Saturday, 21 March, while we were enjoying a dinner party with friends, we received the devastating and surreal news that lockdown for over 65s would start the next morning.
We were stunned. We decided to go ahead with our last Kuştur feeding opportunity . . . if stopped by police we would plead ignorance. Our hand had been forced – I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing Barney again – we would have no option but to take advantage of this last chance to bring Brown-nosed Barney home with us – it was now or never. Barney cried that night, the first without his Mum, but with the support of Deniz Çağlar, an expert dog trainer, we managed. I slept downstairs with Barney by my side for the first three nights, after which Barney was happy to sleep upstairs on the landing, outside our closed bedroom door. We slipped into a routine of early morning walks around the perimeter of the site, to enjoy the Spring dawn chorus for the first time in years, followed by plenty of exercise for all of us throughout the day.
That first morning, I examined Barney’s face and to my horror found six huge ticks hanging on, well-hidden in his fur! Goodness only knows what would have happened had we not adopted him and they had remained undetected . . . Brown-nosed Barney had been raised with brothers, sisters and kittens – so thankfully he accepted our colony and was accepted by them. They played together nicely and the first morning Barney even made a hole in the flyscreen door, to allow the street cats access to his breakfast! Kitts and Barney would curl up together, the kitts nestling in his fur.
We took Barney to be vaccinated, neutered and a neighbour suggested that his coat should be clipped – I resisted at first and then had second thoughts – so gave Pandora the go-ahead – imagining he’d emerge with a ‘short back & sides with a bit off the top’. When I went to collect him, it was like ‘the changeling’! If it hadn’t been for the enthusiastic welcome I received, I’d have thought this was an imposter, he looked so very different – all grown up, with his baby fluff shorn away, ‘young man about town’!
We took Barney camping to Pamucak Beach, which was a delightful experience for us all, the first time in a two-man tent, Barney happily keeping guard outside, but then we upgraded to a 4-man frame tent which Barney shared with us. He frolicked in the waves and hurtled along the beach. In November, our Golden Wedding Anniversary, Alan & I went to Egypt for a diving holiday and Barney was very happy in the care of Claire & İbo at Lilly’s Place boarding kennels and animal sanctuary on the outskirts of Yeniköy. He enjoyed the company of the other dogs and I’m sure that he’s looking forward to his next holiday!
At Christmas we went with friends, their dogs and Barney to a small dog-friendly pansiyon in Didim – the dogs very much enjoyed each other’s company, as did their owners. So Covid 19 has worked happily in our favour. After adopting him, we spent the next few months in isolation with little Brown-nosed Barney, taking every opportunity to wander with him around and through the Site walkways, thankfully all classed as being within our ‘’back yard’’ and so legally accessible. And our animal-hating neighbours were prevented from visiting Turkey, so we were given a respite, an opportunity for us to get to know our newest family member and for him to adjust to us.
We now can’t imagine life without our Brown-nosed Barney – he’s been our lifeline through the Covid Crisis and we’ll remain eternally grateful.